Getting a full night’s sleep is as important to good health as maintaining a proper diet and getting enough exercise. Yet a third of Americans get less than 6 ½ hours of sleep each night – much less the recommended 7-8 hours.
Lack of sleep is associated with an inflammation causing increase of cytokine molecules. Long term insomnia leads to chronic inflammation. This significantly increases the risk of hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
Scary health consequences aside, we simply feel better after we get a good night’s rest. So here are 10 tips you can use right away to improve your odds of getting to sleep faster and staying asleep longer.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day. Caffeine affects your body up to 8 hours, so switch to decaf or herbal teas after lunch. Watch out for caffeinated drinks like sodas and hot chocolate too.
- Exercise earlier – at least 45 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Exercise is important and will help you obtain a more restful sleep, but your body needs time to wind down.
- Avoid drinking before bedtime. Give your body at least an hour to eliminate excess fluids. Otherwise you’re more likely to wake for a midnight bathroom run to empty your bladder.
- Stick to a schedule so your body can get into a routine. Keep the same bedtime and waking routine even on non-work days for improved sleep quality.
- Skip long naps as they can throw off your sleep cycle. Power naps of 15-20 minutes are better.
- Find your best sleep position. Back sleep is recommended as the most stable position for the spine. Placing a pillow under your legs can reduce lower back stress. If you prefer sleeping on your side, try placing a pillow between your legs for better hip support and comfort. Experiment to find what helps you get the best night’s sleep without waking up sore.
- Use the right size and number of pillows. Your head and neck should maintain a roughly straight line while you sleep. Your head should not be propped up or tilted down at an angle.
- Dress (or undress) for comfort so heat or cold won’t keep you awake or prevent you from sleeping through the night.
- Keep your room dark. Turn off the lights, close the curtains, even cover electronic lights if you have to. If you must use a TV or radio to fall asleep, use the sleep timer.
- Eat a “sleepy snack” such as turkey, yogurt, ice cream, or peanuts. These all have high levels of tryptophan which helps your body produce serotonin and relax for sleep — but eat them an hour before bed.
Bonus sleep tip!
When all else fails, many will try sleeping pills which can lead to drug dependence. Try using a safer and non-habit forming herbal sleep aid instead which won’t leave you feeling drugged out in the morning.